There are advantages and disadvantages to each traceability model. When you’re choosing which sustainability standard to work with, it’s important you understand the traceability model they use.

This will help you assess whether it meets the requirements of your sustainability strategy and any sustainability claims you wish to make about your products.


Model 1: Identity Preservation


Type and source of cotton in products can be uniquely traced and labelled.

End consumer gets product which actually contains certified sustainable cotton.

Enables positive impact stories to be linked to specific cotton producing communities.


Additional documentation & systems for verification at all stages of the supply chain discourages suppliers from handling IP materials

Model 2: Bulk Segregation


End consumer gets a product which actually contains certified sustainable cotton.

More flexible over sources of sustainable cotton so easier to source.

One supply chain actor can combine certified volumes from several IP sources into one stock item.


Additional documentation and systems may discourage suppliers who also handle ‘non-certified’ sources from handling certified sources.

Not possible to identify which fibre came from which certified farm, group of farms or primary processors.

Model 3: Mass Balance


Large scale production possible.

Lower cost of entry.

Faster and easier to get started.

Claim of support to sustainability without physical traceability is possible.

Actively involves all supply chain actors in sustainable cotton market.


No guarantee that there is any certified content in each final product.

Burden on suppliers: entering and leaving volumes of certified/non-certified ingredients must be balanced (minus wastage).

Quantities need to be controlled when mixing.

Reconciliation required, time consuming process.

Model 4: Certificate Trading


Limited costs because no changes are made to the supply chain (Free Flow).

Claims of “product supports the sustainable sourcing and production of essential commodities” can be made.

Useful model for markets where the local demand for sustainable products exceeds the local supply.


No physical supply of certified product, only trading.

Lesser credibility and trust factor.

Difficult to communicate to consumers.

Summary of properties of each model

Model 1 Identity Preservation
Model 2 Segregation
Model 3 Mass Balance
Model 4 Certificate Trading

Ensure that volumes of certified material sold match (or don’t exceed) volumes of certified material bought

Traceability linked to volume reconciliation over a set time period

Allows mixing of certified and non certified content

Physical traceability

Identify origin of a final product or product component in actual product

Yes, but ‘origin’ may not be as specific as IP Model, depending on the supply chain (e.g. to country or region may be possible)

Examples of traceability models used by sustainability standards and programmes

Sustainability standards and programmes for cotton offer a range of different models. Their current offers are listed in the table below:

Model 1 Identity Preservation
Model 2 Bulk Segregation
Model 3 Mass Balance
Model 4 Certificate Trading

At Lint level

(via BCI)

At Lint level

(gin to end product)

(from farm to end product)

(from farm to end product)

At Lint level

(after spinning mill)

classic model

sourcing through mass balance model

(till spinner gate)

(after spinner)

(from farm to spinning mill)

At Lint level

(via BCI)


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